A couple of weeks ago I attended the Oracle EPM Cloud partner training, featuring a 2-day class on FCCS. We received the standard roadmap and product updates. Then we got to play with some new features in the November and December releases.
One of the more interesting features in the 17.11 update (“17.11” = November 2017 for you EPM Cloud newbies) is “configurable calculations”. Prior to November, FCCS developers were not allowed to write their own rules using Calculation Manager. You were limited to the list of rules that came out of the box.
Oracle has loosened their policy, and this feature is the first in an overall plan to allow more flexibility with calculations. Starting with last month’s release, we received “configurable calculations”, which is the ability to write a portion of the consolidation process via a user-defined rule using Calculation Manager. In the December release, we then received “advanced calculations”, although these aren’t in Calculation Manager and instead, use a user interface to drive ownership management, proportional consolidation, and advanced consolidation (not to be confused with the broader name of this feature, “advanced consolidationS“). Oracle has bigger plans for calculations in 2018.
However, back to the original topic: configurable calculations. This speaks to me directly since I work mostly on the Planning side and we use Calculation Manager on every project. From what I understand, the rule you craft through this feature becomes an insertion point into a larger consolidation script that you can’t control. So it’s not quite creating your own customized rule from the ground up, but the ability to influence the overall consolidation. This link will take you to the FCCS online documentation on this feature if you want all of the details.
The Governing Principles
Here are some important governing principles about what you can and can’t do with configurable calculations:
- This feature applies only to the consolidation process
- Oracle gives you 6 “seeded insertion rules” out of the box. This is 3 rules with 2 flavors each.
- You must be a Service Administrator to modify the 6 seeded rules and you can only edit them. You cannot create new ones or delete these existing ones.
- You can either use the provided code within the seeded rules, edit the code and add in your own stuff, or delete the code and start over from scratch. Just remember the original purpose of these 3 sets of rules so you’re using them correctly.
- It is totally bizarre how you get into the Calculation Manager area of FCCS. Unfortunately, I don’t have a screen shot, but you access it via Application | Consolidation and then you have to select a rule that has a people icon next to it (meaning that it can be user defined). This then opens a separate browser window for Calculation Manager. (for reference purposes, in Planning Cloud you just go to Navigate | Rules)
- I didn’t see an obvious way to recover the original rule if you overwrote the provided code. In Planning Cloud, there are more seamless ways of handling this recovery process. It’s quite possible that I missed this in the FCCS environment, however. You might want to consider exporting these seeded rules first through the migration wizard, and then downloading them locally so you have a backup…or copying and pasting the original code somewhere locally.
- You should not fix on or set values for (the “left hand side” of the equation) the below dimensions. Technically, you can do it but I tried and received an error during rule validation. The reason why this is a limitation is because these dimensions are already being referenced within the broader consolidation process.
- You need to understand Essbase calculation syntax and Essbase calculation basics to write these user-defined rules correctly. This isn’t VB rules like in HFM. If you don’t have Essbase experience, staff this skill set on your implementation or ask a knowledgeable person. One handy rule of thumb that I was taught almost 2 decades ago: “if dense, fix sparse”. (This means that you should use IF statements with only dense dimensions and FIX statements with only sparse dimensions.) The online FCCS documentation gives you some good starting lessons.
- Not all Essbase functions will be supported. A list of Essbase supported functions are provided in the online documentation.
So let’s take the configurable calculations for a quick, technical preview. And note that I’m looking at this feature through the lens of a Planning developer, so this will be completely technical (and avoid the business side) and high level.
There are a handful of technical areas that I want to call out, which may help you with your FCCS configurable calculations journey.
The 6 Starting “Seeded Insertion Rules”
First, let’s take a look at the 6 rules that come out of the box:
“10” and “20” are different flavors of the same rule for local currency, “30” and “40” as well but for translated data, and the same for “50” and “60”, which are for consolidated data. When you edit each one, the provided code is commented out by default. To use it, simply uncomment it (using the handy dandy icon in the toolbar).
For those of you familiar with Calculation Manager, you’ll notice that this language looks familiar.
You have options to view the rule in either “Edit Script” mode (above), which is for folks who prefer coding directly (which is pretty much everybody). You can also switch to “Designer” mode and use the graphical coding interface.
Enhancement needed: Debug mode
Maggie and Rich talked about how important it is to have a Calculation Manager/Essbase developer on FCCS implementation teams to assist with rule writing and troubleshooting. This triggered a memory about Planning Cloud that I went to investigate. When I saw this feature missing, I asked Rich for an enhancement.
Here is the Actions menu within FCCS:
And here is the same Actions menu within Planning Cloud:
Notice the immediate differences – no options in FCCS Calculation Manager for “Save As” (duh – you can’t create new rules yet), “Debug”, “Analyze Script”, and “Launch” (although Launch is somewhere else, so not a big deal).
Debug mode is sorely needed. For those of you who are new to Calculation Manager, debug mode is awesome. It allows you to step through individual lines of code and more. It would be a great enhancement for FCCS developers.
Tip: An actual way to help troubleshoot your configurable calculations
So no debug mode yet. However, not all is lost. There is a tab at the bottom that includes super cool error log information that will help you out if you run into trouble. Notice the “Errors & Warnings” tab below the script?
Click the option to run script diagnostics and you’ll see some great information that will help you with your rule development and troubleshooting.
It should also give you good information after you run your configurable calculation.
Tip: Compare scripts
This feature exists in the Planning Cloud world too, although I haven’t played around with it extensively. Within the Edit menu, there is an option called “Compare with saved version”:
When you press it, it takes your current edits (that are unsaved) and compares them to the saved version of the script. It’s pretty neat, as it highlights the differences directly in an intuitive, line-by-line comparison way.
Personally, I think there is room for improvement with this feature, but it’s directionally correct. In the future, I hope they allow you to compare any script to any script (edited, saved, etc.). In addition, I hope they allow you to compare the original copy of the template/configurable calculation to the current version.
Tip: How to see important Essbase stuff in FCCS
Just like in Planning Cloud Calculation Manager, you can see important properties, settings, and statistics of the underlying Essbase database for development and informational purposes. However:
- You can’t modify the majority of these settings
- The Planning Cloud team told us that it’s quite possible that they’ll remove this visibility in the future.
To access this area, navigate to the System View | (expand Planning, FCCS, and then highlight a database) | Actions menu| Database Properties.
General tab – general database properties and information. You can modify the Calculation settings. Note that these will apply to the entire database. And be sure to ask an Essbase developer if you’re not sure how these settings will impact your calculations.
Dimensions tab – you’ll see all dimensions in one view with their member counts and storage type.
Statistics tab – you can see some cool stats about the Essbase database.
Transactions tab – I don’t personally use this one, but the commit setting might be important for troubleshooting.
Modifications tab – interesting information if you’re curious about the last major change to your FCCS application (data load, calculation, or outline update).
Breaking Configurable Calculations
Note that I also tried to break the system by attempting to create my own custom rule (…of course I did). I really tried. They locked this down pretty well. I have one more theory on how to break this feature, but I can’t publicly post that without the wrath of the FCCS Product Mgmt team…maybe I’ll try later…
Notice from the Rules folder that there is no “New” option:
Or when you go through the other menus to create a “New Object”, there is no “Rule” option:
I even tried to import a custom exported rule with a name that differed from the existing configurable calculations. Busted again.
Next year, Oracle has promised to add a feature to allow for even more flexible calculations. I believe this will include the ability to create your own rules from scratch, but in a template-ized manner. Rich Wilkie has made it clear that, at this time, Oracle does not intend to ever provide full-blown Calculation Manager to FCCS, as that is not the point of this solution (which is meant to streamline development and administration with pre-built components).
In conclusion, configurable calculations are a good start to giving more calculation flexibility to FCCS customers when it comes to consolidations. This, in conjunction with a number of other promising roadmap items that were mentioned, give me hope about the future of FCCS in 2018.